“We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain.”
— Tom Stoppard, Czech-born British Playwright
“Would you boys like some advice,” the stranger asked, leaning a bit too near.
I was uncertain how to respond.
If I said, “No,” I ran the risk of offending this visibly intoxicated man.
If I responded with, “Yes,” I could be initiating a long and incoherent conversation from which I might have difficulty extricating myself.
As it turned out, I didn’t need to respond as he seemed to take my silence as an acknowledgment.
“I overheard your conversation,” he said, “and have a thought.”
I looked over at my companion, who just shrugged.
“If you’re going to dance with a grizzly bear,” he said, breathing whiskey in my face, “it’s best to let it lead.” With that, he slapped me on the back and stumbled off.
It’s been accurately said that there is a lot of advice available for nothing, and most of it is worth about what we paid for it.
As you embark on your journey of self-awareness and self-esteem building, you’re going to find that everyone has an opinion.
To me, it seems many people who ask for advice are not seeking a recommendation but rather an accomplice.
That’s because these people are looking for a confirmation of their opinion — a validation of their viewpoint.
They don’t want an honest and completely unbiased assessment.
They’re looking for someone who will agree with them and usually, it’s so they can go back to someone else and say, “See, I was right!”
When you seek advice, whom do you approach? Many of us will turn to a friend or a family member — a few of us will seek professional counsel. If you’re going to speak with friends or family members, it’s best to lay out some guidelines right up front.
Ask them to listen without interrupting until you have spoken your piece.
Keep in mind that family and friends may hold back or use “kid gloves” so as not to hurt your feelings. Of course, if they’re like some of my family or friends, they may do just the opposite.
Whomever you choose to consult, remember to thank them for their time, insights and observations — even if you (quietly) don’t agree with their opinion or point-of-view.
I’ve been the recipient of much advice over the years, some of it requested and much of it unsolicited. Here are some “pearls of wisdom” that I’ve taken to heart.
Make the most of every day. Cherish each moment and draw from those moments as much joy, appreciation and wisdom you can as you’ll never experience them again.
Make time to speak with people you may have just ignored in the past. The harried server, the cashier at the check-out, the teller at the bank and listen carefully.
Be willing to risk. Be willing to be vulnerable. In my experience, it’s only when we relinquish our need to control or our fear of being hurt, that we fully experience life.
Tell the people you love that you love them. You never know when the opportunity to speak those words will no longer exist. Holding back can lead to regret.
Hold your head high and walk with purpose. You are responsible for your self-esteem and self-worth. Tell yourself every day that you are a good and worthwhile person with much to give to the world. If you don’t believe in yourself, others will follow suit.
Never be too quick to disregard advice. Simply because someone can talk the talk but does not walk the walk does not mean the advice is unsound or unworthy of consideration.
And keep in mind, even the best advice is just someone’s opinion based on his or her background and experience. Be open, but exercise good judgment, too.
By the way, the conversation I’d been having was with a colleague concerned a difficult and volatile individual.
When we allowed the “grizzly” to take the lead in our “dance”, we were able to resolve some issues and find common ground.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem columnist